Is it sin? Can Christians do Yoga?

Prayer, Meditation?

Prayer, Meditation?

Earlier tonight I happened upon a blog that asked the question: “Should Christians do Yoga?” I will only presume that this was based on a short imported video featuring Dr. John Macarthur of Grace Community Church and a Mr. Doug Daggit, also a pastor at a church in Minnesota.

First I thought of just espousing my position on religious fanatics, albeit Christians or Muslims, or Hare Krishna’s for that matter. I believe that extremism is never okay. As one has passion for their beliefs and way of living is quite okay; however, when it comes to offending others none of it is any good if it drives people away, like the Ruby Ridge tragedy.

 

However, after reflecting I decided on a more calm approach. The following is my reasoning: Most people in the West, DO NOT associate yoga with any semblance of religion, spirituality, or theology. Seriously, why should they? I have a couple of hypotheticals to run past anyone who reads them:

 

Yoga, as I understand it is a discipline that involves the entire musco-skeletal arrangement of our bodies; in addition, as I understand yoga there is also a mental discipline that is very similar to meditation.

 

Base upon this understanding, I find it ludicrous to remotely think that the practice would not be in harmony with Christianity. Consider if you will: Christ asks us to pray, pray, and pray. Prayer from the ancient Greek language means the same as meditation. Moreover, when Jesus left the “gang” behind that was his time; furthermore, Jesus mentions the notion of meditation to his disciples.

 

The only other notion I have is in the area of health. The jury went out, deliberated, and has since come back with a verdict: Research data clearly supports that in practicing yoga one is in better physical condition and their bodies are better off than before they started. This is the same notion that I bring forth with folks joining a gym or working out. In fact, many runners feel that “runner’s high” which is really the releasing of dopamine, interferons, and other naturally made protein based substances within our bodies.

 

Not even religious fanatics will argue against going to a gym or on a run to stay in shape. My belief system calls for me to maintain mental discipline while I focus on the word of God and especially in prayer; indeed, throughout the New Testament, the apostle Paul continues to remind us about the race, fighting the good fight, all the while keeping our minds and bodies focused on the prize. Now if yoga somehow gets in the way of this—then I’d agree that it’s against my beliefs. However, as I see it, we are encouraged to engage in natural things that make us better believers.

 

Just one more thing: If people do not readily ascribe yoga to any religious connotation how then could it possibly be wrong?  Comments, Suggestions, All-Comers Welcome!

 

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About Jon-Paul Schilling

Academia, Constitution, Musicianship, all around Caucasian male, straight, and professes Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life. Guitars -- Classical, Acoustic, A/E, Strat, a real bassist at heart, Les Paul Standard bass.
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19 Responses to Is it sin? Can Christians do Yoga?

  1. Excellent post!! I really like your site!!

  2. Gas Sensor says:

    .*: I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information .*`

  3. Jason says:

    Wanted to add: In all things we are to use caution because Satan is out like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. I see the objections to Christians doing yoga in the same way Paul(I think) was saying he would never again eat meat if it caused his brother to stumble. We never know who is watching us and we don’t really know how far our influence reaches.

  4. Jason says:

    Jon-Paul,

    First off, thank you for your article. I wanted to share some information I found. This video on YouTube supports your article nicely: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQXAYioSQ9I

    This guy’s religion is yoga, so his points appear credible.

    Side note: I did practice yoga as part of a workout regimine, but have since stopped. I stopped doing yoga for no other reason than I just don’t like that kind of workout. I like weight-lifting better! :o)

    People just need to use their heads and their Bibles.

    Hebrews 5:14 ESV – “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

    If your unsure about something(whatever it is), research it extensively, pray about it, talk to your brothers and sisters in Christ about it, gain a perspective from friends and family, and make a decision.

    In Christ,
    - Jason

    • Jon-Paul says:

      Jason, thank you for your inspiring comment! You are so observant vis-a-vie staying in God’s word and knowing how and what He feels about it. Please don’t be a stranger, your welcome anytime!

      jps

      • Jon-Paul says:

        Jason,

        Most excellent guidance and the sincerity of Paul’s faith is remarkable. If something (anything) causes you to stumble, cut it off or out!

        Sidebar: Your statement regarding we don’t always know whose watching us…is one matter; however, we do know whose ALWAYS watching us. Cheers mate.

        jps

  5. Wall Heater says:

    you can really learn a lot from health clubs specially if there are doctors who are also members on the health club -:”

  6. laura says:

    I’m sorry to be so ignorant, but what are born again believers?
    And about the yoga, I think if you do yoga correctly and meditate, you do really connect with your inner self. Yoga is all about breathing and harmony and aligning the chakras. It’s about feeling good about yourself and finding peace inside your mind. I don’t know if it’s a sin or not but I believe it’s just about the best feeling in the world.

    • Jon-Paul says:

      Hiya laura!

      No! You are not ignorant! Born-again believers are those individuals who have enjoyed the process of being born again into the Kingdom of God through his son Jesus Christ. Moreover, born-again believers are those who have submitted to the complete will of God and receive the Holy Spirit as their gift.

      Please don’t misunderstand…as far as the Western culture is concerned most people do not associate praise, worship, prayer, mediation, chakras, and the inner self being in harmony. However, at one point or another in the Bible, believers are encouraged to perform the exact same acts that one does in yoga.

      We are told about breathing, and in order to really see and feel God we must be at peace with our inner selves. In fact, unless one does not do these same procedures albeit under different names it would be very, very difficult to walk in the Spirit.

      Believers are encouraged to meditate on everything from problems, angst, or joy; meditation in this regard is a discipline that usually sees one sweating or at times crying; furthermore, meditation means prayer.

      And I agree with your assessment albeit from the believers perspective.

  7. Jon-Paul says:

    Pamela:

    Thank you for your insightful and inspiring comment. Believe it or not…this is the most viewed post in the history of The Thinker!

    I am very happy about that because I believe that people are thinking about their beliefs. Furthermore, just as the two born-again Christian instructors and yourself questioning more a “word” and the cultural meaning behind it–I find that most American Christian’s feel exactly the same way.

    Ironically, lately I’ve been receiving a number of other religion responses that agree with the word aspect. Yoga has a different meaning in Hindi than in English. Thanx again,

    jps

  8. Pamela says:

    I think Paul’s last paragraph sums it up perfectly.

    Personally, I am a strong Christian, a Christian author, as well as a homeschooler who has Multiple Sclerosis. I do yoga at my health club as the health benefits are far more effective then any other program (I can’t do most of the exercise classes available due to my health limitations.) They have proven to improve my strength, my balance, and my overall health in general. Not only are there no references WHATSOEVER to hinduism, (frankly, it’s an exercise class!) 2 of the instructors are born again believers as well.

    In my humble opinion opposing yoga as an exercise routine (as long as that is the context in which it is) smacks of nothing less than legalism.

  9. Paul says:

    I am a “yoga” instructor and a practicing, “born again” Christian. I teach an athletic yoga class in a health club setting. I do not bring any spiritual references into my class… the people in my class are there for a full body physical workout, stress relief, and relaxation. My class utilizes yoga poses / sequences for the strength, balance, self discipline, and flexibility benefits. I don’t believe in Hinduism or that doing yoga poses is somehow making me worship Hindu gods or will make me reject my faith. And I know that anyone can get incredible physical benefits from practicing yoga without practicing Hinduism. Frankly, I feel that all of the spiritual concepts that are taught in yoga, like special breathing techniques, mudras, chakras, bandhas, altered states of mind, etc… are a bunch of bull (no offense), even if I wasn’t a Christian. They just seem ridiculous, and that a thinking person would never accept them as real or true. The things that are taught about what certain poses do to / for internal organs and body processes is also bull… none of it has been scientifically or medically proven, so there is no way I’m going to believe it / teach it. It bothers me to see other people teaching it / falling for it. But I will help people become physically stronger, more flexible, and more balanced via the practice of yoga poses / sequences and relaxation, because it does have those benefits.
    As for the original question, it is not a sin for a Christian to teach or take yoga, it is a sin to reject Christ and follow other beliefs. Yoga can’t make me do that.

  10. onemorecup says:

    Yati Deva,

    Thank you so much for your response! I DO NOT mean that to patronize you whatsoever. What you and Daniel for this post are doing is exactly the way I wanted this blog to be; therefore, thank you very much for contributing to the knowledge of humankind. Cheers!

    Oh! I did want to add something: Insofar as you last paragraph is concerned I could not possible AGREE with you more! This is the precise notion that I was talking with Daniel about.

    So typical of the West, people have a tend to latch on to something regardless of its origins, respect, or otherwise. I have been a long advocate of simply changing the name of positions for flexibility and for mental discipline, even meditation; however, you probably know who the West is and how they live their lives.

    I live in the West therefore I refer to it as a “convenience oriented society” whereby many beliefs, values, morals, and especially ethical behavior has given way to convenience rather than substance. Thank you again for your comments…please visit often!

    OMC

  11. Yati Deva says:

    “As you understand it” and most individual people in this self-absorbed culture who prefer to be oblivious to the facts, ‘Yoga’ in refering to posture is properly referered to ‘as Hatha Yoga’. The various Yogas are none other than the well orchestrated progressive religious/spiritual disciplines of Hinduism and it sects. Such as Karma Yoga, Bhakti Y., Raja Y., Jhanna Y. etc. Yoga is not universal or found in any other religions. Yoga , coming from the Sanscrit ( a sacred religious language of the Hindus) word ‘Yuj’. Yuj means the yoking/joining of the Atmana (individual soul) w/ Brahman (soul source). This goal is not part of most of Abrahamic religions. Hatha Yoga is the worshipful postures to the natural world, Hindu Deities and Hindu sages. Again, just one of the ‘yogas’ to reach this ‘union’ and Self-Realizaation.
    If one likes doing /teaching these postures, do so with something like calling it strech and relaxation based on the Hatha Yoga of Hinduism. Otherwise this misrepresenting is harmful, decitful and violent to Hindus and Non- Hindus alike.

  12. Daniel says:

    OMC,

    you make a pretty good arguement when it comes to people who do it without theological knowledge. but i still think its dangerous. not so much the yoga, (although i still disagree with it strongly) but the mentality behind it. if christians start picking and choosing practices which are essential in other religions where will that lead? i know you will probably draw the line somewhere but many christians will be deceived and their spirituality will assimilate to something non-christian. unless you establish a biblical methodology pertaining to how you will seek God or evangelize the inevitable will be to create your own methods or adopt someone elses. plus, christians have dealt with eastern religions as long as christianity’s history. theres a good reason why all true christians in the past never adopted pantheistic concepts or practices, and remember that many christians in the past dealt with this up close and personal (unlike the west) because many lived in Asia Minor and in some parts of the east. i think the mentality that opens up christianity to use other religion’s practices interchangeably is a deadly one. the bible always talks about seperating one’s self from the world, that includes the many religions and philosophies of the world. if we open the doors to yoga, down the road….what other things will we open the door to? the book of Daniel is extremely relevant. Israel had been captured by Babylonia and they took prisoners and slaves as exiles. Daniel and the other young Jewish boys were in that group of exiles. we should all learn from the way those Hebrew boys dealt with Babylonian culture. if we open the doors and let our guard down pretty soon there will no longer be Christianity but a mix and blend of spirituality.

  13. onemorecup says:

    Daniel,

    Hey! Thanks for commenting.

    I believe that perception is key in coming to an understanding about or points of view. Example: If one were practicing yoga as a spiritual discipline based on its Eastern theological notions, then I agree with your assessment. The person therefore would NOT have anything to do with Christ and His teachings.

    On the other hand, if a person practices yoga not knowing anything about its history or theology, and used yoga in such a way as what is so typical in physical therapy and rehabilitation for injuries suffered; moreover, for those who have rheumatoid arthritis and practice yoga for complete mobility and range of motion in various digits it therefore has no religious connotation whatsoever.

    Finally, in the last paragraph of my article for today on “The Thinker” I make mention of performing yoga without theological knowledge. I understand the history, concept, theology behind what is practiced in the Eastern world; however, without knowledge of “…yoga is a deeply spiritual and religious practice, despite of the western world’s attempts to re-package it…” further supports my point.

    I don’t believe that Christians who practice yoga are trying to reach some “inner-god.” If that were the case they would be sinning with regards to “aforethought.” If one were to take out the Eastern philosophical and theological notions out and renamed the discipline of yoga another name would that be wrong? How about if it encouraged prayer and communion with God?

    Btw, thank you so very, very much for responding to my post!!

    In Jesus,

    OMC

  14. Daniel says:

    i do not believe that christianity is a religion in which “the end justifies the mean”. in the theological realm it is known as pragmatism. we shouldnt use physical positions which eastern pantheistic religions use to become one with “the inner god” to get close to Jesus. yoga is a deeply spiritual and religious practice, despite of the western world’s attempts to re-package it. besides, if you want to exercise theres plenty of ways of doing that apart from yoga. our culture has absorbed a lot of aspects of eastern pantheism. dont buy into the lies.

    grace and peace

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